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light equipment and settings for toy photography

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As it was asked by ReverendSpooky and a few other members earlier I thought it could be helpful to create a thread about lighting equipment for our figures...

It's not properly a tutorial as there are thousands of ways to work and have fun, just sharing my personal experience here, all opinions advices and additions are welcome!

First the equipment of course, high level photographers will only use and talk about the recent "lumecube" because it's the latest fancy accessory for photography. It is indeed a very good light source, but it's white only and one spot is around 80$ (yeah yeah...)

Personally I tried to go the cheapest possible on my equipment because I'm far from being a pro and it should stay a side budget of the hobby for me (saving the buck for figures huh!)
I bought a set of 4 RGB LED spots that are stickables from "VIDA XL", they can be dimmed in intensity and you can select whatever color within the RGB range. (you can easily find these online between 30 to 50$)

Here they are:

light equipment and settings for toy photography Light%20settings%202

Very easy to set and use, they are also available in set of 8, with a bigger driver. That's the only limitation, as there is only one driver per set, all 4 or 8 spots will be set to the same intensity and color. You can of course buy two sets to skip this limitation, but the best way to go is to buy a DMX controller, which can be found between 20 to 100$ depending on the number of sources you want to support. I took a very small one personally, just enough to set up to 8 different colors and intensities to my sources (I since bought another set of 4 to have more sources, and everything is still linked to my dmx controller)

Once equipped it's all about personal tastes and preferences, and what you want to achieve in photography. I just learned through the years that a front light on a subject flattens all details and is not very interesting, reason why I often go with sides lighting or even back lighting.

The back lighting gives a very dramatical or emotional vibe to a shot, still you will need to set an additional side or front light to get some details and not just a chinese shadow (except if it is the purpose of course!)

As an example here is one of my recent shots:

light equipment and settings for toy photography DRV_21

On this shot there are 3 main sources and 1 additional:

- I used two spots stuck to the wall behind the diorama, that's what makes the ceiling light, set in warm white color and high intensity to give some character to the picture

- on each side there is another spot, both are set together in slightly orange/fire color and medium intensity. The point is to reveal the details of the face and outfit without killing the "back light" idea. These two spots are the most important in my setting and are kinda reccuring in all my settings, side light reveal a face much better than front light.

- There is one last spot lighting from front, depending on the pictures it's on or off, but always set to neutral white and very low intensity, the point of this one is only to grab a reflection in the eyes or glasses of the subject (it is a detail but that really brings life to a figure by having this little shine on the gloss of the eyes)

Here is a quick sketch of my installation for the "drive" shooting:

light equipment and settings for toy photography Light%20settings

on the sketch and topview 1 and 2 are the side spots, 3 is the rear one(s) and 4 is the additional front one.

This set is composed of three panels, but even doing a "corner" diorama with only two panels I always try to keep multiple light sources and avoid direct front lighting. Since the spots are stickable and can be repositioned a simple plastic bottle is a perfect stand for them, no need to go hunt for tripods or sophisticated equipment.

Hope this helps!

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GubernatorFan

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Thank you for the detailed explanation and the illustrations. They certainly seem to work out beautifully, then again you know what you're doing. Smile I was trying to look up this product, and am having trouble finding this exact one, or even something similar enough. Can you perhaps find/provide a link?


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Stryker2011

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This should get you started, Guv. I have these lights (use them in my cabinets), though I don't have the control panel thingy -- I just plug them directly into a surge protector:

https://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/40430828/

Ikea has all different types -- from just white to the multi-color. Search around under "Integrated Lights", and you'll find several options.


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light equipment and settings for toy photography TCFITBi
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Stryker2011

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Thanks for the sketches and tutorial, Blackpool. Really helpful. For just my standard lighting setup in my cabinets (the wood ones, not the Detolfs), I didn't buy nearly enough lights to make them totally useful. But this would be pretty good for just a light-box set up for taking pictures. (Right now, all my pictures are being taken in a completely enclosed basement bathroom -- as it's the only space that isn't cluttered with all my other projects and junk.


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light equipment and settings for toy photography TCFITBi
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GubernatorFan

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Stryker2011 wrote:This should get you started, Guv. I have these lights (use them in my cabinets), though I don't have the control panel thingy -- I just plug them directly into a surge protector:

https://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/40430828/

Ikea has all different types -- from just white to the multi-color. Search around under "Integrated Lights", and you'll find several options.

Thank you for the link and advice. I did poke around and found some similar products, then some more on eBay using the brand and product names. Still haven't seen stickable ones like Blackpool's but maybe they are not widely available this side of the pond.


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Stryker2011

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The Ikea ones come with sheets of removable double-sided stickers that you put on yourself.


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light equipment and settings for toy photography TCFITBi
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GubernatorFan

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Stryker2011 wrote:The Ikea ones come with sheets of removable double-sided stickers that you put on yourself.

Maybe yours were a slightly different variety. The ones in the link mentioned screws, and looked a bit thicker than Blackpool's, which seem to be relatively thin. This one looked a little closer to them: https://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/00435719/
I poked around, and only found ones with a choice of swappable RGB colors on eBay.


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Stryker2011

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Mine came with screws also, but I didn't use those. Unless they changed the contents, they should have the double-sided tape, as well. I don't see the tape as included in the contents package, either, but that could just be an oversight.

Even the thinner ones in your link don't show the double-side tape, either. Just the screws. As I said, mine came with both screws and tape -- so not sure.

Be aware, whatever size you are looking for, the ones I suggested have a 2" diameter; the ones in your link are 2 5/8", if size is an issue.


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GubernatorFan

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Thanks for the info, Stryker. I am not jumping on this just yet, but was inspired to look up options by Blackpool's tutorial. I have been using two (previously three) adjustable (twisty) neck task lights pretty well for a long time, but to dim the light I have to play with distance and a cloth overhang. So these options do sound like a considerable improvement.


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I didn't think about that detail but the voltage difference between US Uk and EU might be why you don't find them easy... (though it's all made in china lmao)

here is a first link (set of 8 for 58€)
https://www.vidaxl.fr/e/8718475861799/kit-de-8-spots-led-rgb-avec-telecommande?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIlriqi7nP4AIV8QrTCh0lcQoqEAQYASABEgLVPfD_BwE

and here is the same but on amazon.fr
https://www.amazon.fr/vidaXL-t%C3%A9l%C3%A9commande-ampoule-placard-armoire/dp/B00NAQEWGO

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GubernatorFan

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Merci beaucoup! It is already useful, confirming that some of the products I found are similar enough.


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This is awesome!!! I think that back light is what I really need to make things pop from the background. And the advice to light faces from the side makes a ton of sense. These lights look like they even have a naturally diffused quality, which is pretty ideal. Blackpool, I really appreciate you posting this. I'm really excited to pick up a set or 2 of these, and start experimenting.


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Stryker2011

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Anyone have any experience with the “Grain of Wheat” lights that model car builders, or railroaders, use? I’m curious as to how bright they can be, how much they can illuminate, what sort of controls you can use for them, etc. I don’t have any experience with those at all.


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light equipment and settings for toy photography TCFITBi
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Thank you so much for this tutorial.  I really want to get better at my photography, though all I have at the moment is a phone camera, LOL.  Still I'm working on a diorama and hope to eventually make some great shots.  I'm hoping to get a camera some time in the next year or so Smile In the mean time, I can do a lot of things with me old phone camera, and I'm sure I can learn a lot about lighting until I can buy an actual DSLR Smile

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@stryker I couldn't help you on this as I have no clue at all about these specific model light systems, but I am gonna ask at my work, we have talented electricians and light specialist, they will surely have some informations...

@peaches cellphones actually make very good pictures, a least the recent ones, and it goes even better with the lenses accessories to plug over your phone camera, added to this, a lot of graphic edition apps are available on mobile for free, with a few of them you can escape using a real photo editor like photoshop or paint...

In example I used "lightsaberFX" in the past to add the light sabers effects on my starwars pictures, "lens distortions" is also very good for adding effects like fog, light particles, halos, reflections...

light equipment and settings for toy photography 21294886_168518867038246_4649648323823665152_n.jpg?_nc_ht=instagram.fcdg1-1.fna.fbcdn

Personally I use my mobile to do most my outdoor shots, all my starwars blackseries pictures are taken this way!

light equipment and settings for toy photography Troopers6

Cellphones can also be veeeery useful as light sources, not from the lamp function, but just saving some plain color images from internet and putting them on screen with maximum screen light (google the name of a color and look at the images results to get any color easily)

As an example this shot was made prior to buying my RGB spots, at that time I used my iphone to make the fushia light, and my gf's ipad to make the blue!

light equipment and settings for toy photography DRV_18

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Oh wow, blackpool -- I'd love to be able to do those lightsaber effects! Will have to see how to do that... could really help me out with my lightsabers that don't light-up, which is most of them. Thank you so much for the tip! Very Happy


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Ahhh ! Great, thank You very much. And i found the Tutorial Thread now Laughing

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GubernatorFan

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These photos (some of which I haven't seen before) really are gorgeous!


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